Justice minister Rimsky Yuen says Hong Kong should accept 'imperfect' reform package

Failure to allow proposal on 2017 poll may harm city's global standing, warns justice secretary

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 11:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 7:04am

The justice secretary is asking Hongkongers to accept even an "imperfect" electoral reform package in order to safeguard the city's standing in the international community.

If the city fails to accept the proposal ultimately put to the Legislative Council to achieve universal suffrage in 2017, then its international ranking in some of the most influential global indexes could suffer, warned Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung. He also said further changes to the method for electing the chief executive would be possible beyond 2017.

Last week Yuen, who is on the constitutional reform task force, said that a nominating committee - as stipulated in the Basic Law - was probably the only authority with the power to confirm who could run.

If universal suffrage could not be delivered as scheduled, he said: "It would definitely have an impact on the question of governance within Hong Kong. Also, I'm concerned with the international impact ... people outside Hong Kong are also watching."

Yuen cited The Heritage Foundation, a conservative US think tank that publishes the annual Index of Economic Freedom, and Canada's Fraser Institute, which publishes the Economic Freedom of the World index, as institutions that could downgrade the city's ranking.

The Heritage Foundation has warned of the risk to economic freedom posed by potential political turmoil in the lead-up to poll.

Asked if Hongkongers should accept a reform package that may be imperfect to some, Yuen said: "I think so … Let's make a start first, and then we can find ways to improve the system. We will definitely have a chance to do this in the future."

Stanley Lau Chin-ho, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, agreed. "When we make business decisions, overall conclusions and assessments made by internationally recognised organisations … are important references," Lau said.